Cisco CCENT Certification: How I Prepared

To prepare for Cisco's new entry-level certification exam, I used a combination of online training, exam guides and took practice tests.

wes richardson

December 9, 2013

3 Min Read
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My first Cisco certification exam took place towards the end of September. That's when the exam for the Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT) certification was undergoing significant changes. The previous exam, 640-822, was retired Oct. 1 and replaced by the 100-101 Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices Part 1 (ICND1) exam. The new 100-101 ICND1 exam includes materials previously covered at more advanced levels.

In the month and a half prior to taking the exam, I developed a healthy routine of study and lab exercise. I watched hours of training videos each day, made flash cards, and worked with hardware. As it turned out, I had spent over a hundred hours studying for an exam that I wasn’t signed up for.

The morning before the exam I thought to double check the time of the exam and realized I was signed up for the 100-101. But it was already too late to correct it. I would be taking the updated ICND1, not the soon-to-be-replaced one I had prepared for. I spent a very long day making up the difference between the two curricula as best I could.

Fortunately, certification guides are not hard to come by. Cisco Press provides an array of prep products, and numerous courses are available online. I have used CBT Nuggets, which offers online training, throughout the training process. I found that a combination of Web courses along with official exam guides provide a practical framework of study. From my experience, video training is particularly helpful for beginning new topics. They essentially provide a reference for what should be further explained in the guidebook.

My advice to other test-takers is that whatever you use, make sure practice tests are available. Test what you know and get your hands on as many resources as possible. Repeat as needed.

From there you can look at which areas are sticking, and those that need more work. After a while, patterns become noticeable within functions and protocols. I won’t spoil it -- just know that everything builds. Work on subnets and addressing as much as you can. I would say the ability to break down or navigate network addressing is the most important thing to understand early on. It is very beneficial to be able to make a subnet chart from memory before taking the test. That said, you should be able to at the very least vaguely describe everything on the syllabus, which is provided online by Cisco’s learning network.

These are tough exams, but only in that they require an investment of time. Time management will be an issue until you finish the exam.

[Get more tips to guide your Cisco certification strategy in "Cisco Certification: 5 Tips For Success."]

I am a person who works best in what may seem like a frenzy, jumping from one thing to another. This probably explains my emphasis in accumulating a variety of materials. But seriously, a varied approach is helpful for perspective, and can provide relief from the repetition of study. Stack your schedule in a way that makes the most sense for you. If time is a constraint, divide your study into manageable sessions. Before taking the exam, I made a subnet chart at least three times a day. It only takes a few minutes to scribble out and it’s great for retention.

The 100-101 ICND1 may be the entry-level Cisco certification exam, but that is not to say that it should be taken lightly. Much if not all of what will be covered in successive exams will be constructed around what you’ve learned for the first exam. IPv6, NAT, ACLs, etc. are introduced in ICND1 and expounded upon at higher levels. I would advise against taking any shortcuts on this entry exam.

Of course, I’m not one to talk -- I crammed tons of new material into a 10-hour study session. But I did pass.

Wesley Richardson is Network Engineer at Tequa Creek Holdings LLC.

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